Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Standing, Rolling, Dancing, Singing, Praying, Preaching, Acting on the Side of Love

At our the preceding Ministry Days preceding the UU General Assembly, ableist language was used in worship to the extent that UUMA Board Member Josh Pawelek issued this response:

Clearly there is a problem with ableism in our public presentation. Public statements, music, stories and metaphors that perpetuate ableism have been hurtful to colleagues. As with any oppression, this ableism likely runs deeper than our public presentation. I remain grateful to all those who are willing to call it to our attention, and I am deeply sorry that such calling is still necessary. (The full response is here.)
The most prominent example of ableist language in our movement, however, is our social justice arm: Standing on the Side of Love.  And before you say, "It's just a metaphor," I invite you to watch this and read this by UU minister Theresa Soto.  The point here is not to convince you that ableist metaphors are a problem.  The point is that we often think, even if it is ableist, "Standing on the Side of Love" is a done deal and it would be too hard to change it.  I'd like to offer a different possibility.  I think we need to change this, and it's possible to change this.  The important part of the "Standing on the Side of Love" isn't the "Standing," it's that we're acting "on the Side of Love." 

Step 1: Start including our non-standing bodies in the message.  Without changing the name officially, widen the images and merchandise.  Start by offering "I Roll on the Side of Love" or "Rolling on the Side of Love" or "Sitting on the Side of Love" t-shirts, bumper stickers, and other items. Make it easy for people to get these items -- don't make them make their own.  Start making images that you share on your webpage with these words more and more frequently. 

Step 2: Offer more and more words as options -- we can dance, pray, sing, and act in lots of ways "on the Side of Love."  Start using all sorts of words more and more frequently until "standing" is just one word among many, used no more frequently than the others.  Do this on merchandise and images in particular.  Maybe ministers would like t-shirts that say "Preaching on the Side of Love" or "Serving on the Side of Love."  Maybe DREs would like "Teaching on the Side of Love" or "Growing on the Side of Love" or other ideas. 

Step 3: Drop "Standing" as the title of the organization in favor of "On the Side of Love" or "The Side of Love."  Start by using the shortened version on images and merchandise where no one verb will do.  Then as people get used to the new name, change URLs and official name and usage of the organization. 

I think it's time for us to recognize that while it's been a great campaign and done some really neat things, the title is ableist, and that is problematic.  Let's fix it, folks.  We're better than just throwing up our hands and saying, "Oh well."